Category: Business Strategy


HR Would Be Better If…

Local HR guru Steve Browne (@sbrownehr) is hosting the Carnival of HR this week and has asked HR bloggers from around the globe to write about the following theme: “HR would be better if…” All posts must be in by January 14, so here we go (1.5 hours to spare)!

20140905_192850HR would be better if . . . We all took a big, no GINORMOUS step back.

Then go for a walk outside in the cold and crisp, yet therapeutic fresh air. Clear your mind. Breathe.

When you return, clear off a large space on your desk, break out an old-school pad of paper and pen, and reflect on the following questions:

1. What am I doing?

2. Why am I doing it?

3. What is the desired result? How am I helping the business succeed?

4. Do I have to be doing it this way? Is there a different way? A better way? A more efficient way? A more engaging way? A more impactful way?

5. If so, who or what can I learn from, connect with, leverage to get us there?

6. What will success look like? When/how often will I measure? Am I open to changing course midway? Am I okay with failing? How will I respond to failure?

7. At the end of the day, what am I doing to enhance the quality of our employees’ work lives? To make it more enjoyable? More fulfilling? What am I doing to restore humanity in the workplace? #YOLO

Now you’re ready to make a big, no GINORMOUS impact.

P.S. If your boss and co-workers give you funny looks for walking around the parking lot in the middle of January, ask them to join you next time. They’ll see the light. And your organization will be better.

What is a Blogging Carnival?

Taken straight from the Carnival of HR’s website: “A blogging carnival is a social media meme in which a group of bloggers submit blog posts to a “host” who compiles the posts into one collection that they then publish on their site on the prearranged day. The posts and bloggers are generally focused on an similar area of interest, such as Human Resources, and may or may not have a theme which unites the posts on a specific question or topic.”

Why Feelings Matter at Work: Being Intentional About Employee Experience

Employee Experience Blog popcorn1I like my V8 V-Fusion® + Energy pomegranate drink around 2:00 p.m. in my Bengals tumbler with ice (crushed, not cubed), with some Smart Pop on the side. It’s just what I need to plow through what would otherwise be drowsy afternoon hours and get some serious work done.

It makes me feel creative.

It makes me feel confident about the work I’m producing.

It makes me feel happy (…and sometimes feeling “happy” goes a long way).

At initial glance, it appears to just be some liquid, a cup, and a few kernels. But no – it’s so much more. It’s an EXPERIENCE, and an experience that actually alters my behaviors, attitude and output.

I’m sure everyone can think of a similar experience that makes you feel a certain way – maybe it’s that first sip of coffee in the morning, that brand new “A Game” outfit you put on to knock your sales presentation out of the park, or maybe it’s the tranquility of your favorite cocktail glass in front of the fire at the end of a long day.

Consumer Experience

We invest a lot into the experience consumers have with our products and services. There are entire marketing strategies designed around it, product and brand managers focused on it every single day (and whose bonus depends on it!), and researchers continuously testing to measure effectiveness and resulting consumer behavior.

Why? Because the way something makes us feel alters our behaviors, attitude and output. This includes decisions we make about the products and services we choose to engage with.

Employee Experience

Let’s switch gears now and think about the employee experience inside your organization’s four walls (or multitude of continents, or virtual platforms, or in whatever form your organization exists). What have you invested internally to support a positive employee experience? Have you developed a strategy (what kind of experience do you want them to have in the first place)? Do you have a team and budget to execute on the strategy? Who are your “researchers” and what continuous metrics do you have in place?

Being intentional about proactively creating the experience your employees have while working for you will result in the behaviors, attitudes and output you desire from your team. After all, our employees – just like our consumers – are human. The way they feel at any moment in time affects their behavior.

So how can you make sure they’re feeling the way you want them to? Follow these five steps:

1. Identify how you want your employees to feel at work. Every organization is different, so define what’s right for you based on the needs of your business strategy.

2. Audit current versus desired feelings to identify where there are gaps (this can be done a number of ways – via survey, focus groups, observations, interviews, etc.).

3. Develop a plan to create an employee experience that yields the desired feelings you’ve identified in Step 1, now being informed of the gaps via Step 2. Consider elements such as:

  • Physical office environment (colors, work spaces, lighting, wall hangings, furniture, etc.)
  • Management and leadership – what “type” of leaders are you acquiring and building in order to support this experience? (Watch this video to learn more about the vital role organizational leaders play in creating the “smell of the place.”)
  • Opportunities to connect/collaborate (both professionally and socially)
  • Levels of autonomy and empowerment to make decisions
  • Core values and how they’re brought to life during your daily operations
  • Flexibility in how work gets done
  • Continuous learning and professional development

4. Identify the resources (material, people, and financial) needed to support the plan.

5. Execute the plan, measure regularly, and tweak as needed.

Be Intentional

Don’t just let the experience “happen.” Just like you do with your customers, be intentional about creating the type of employee experience that is going to foster high levels of engagement, collaboration, innovation, loyalty, and ultimately performance and results. Otherwise, you can throw your best consumer experience strategy out the window! It starts at home.

5 Ways to Ensure Employees Deliver your Brand Promise

20140627_085414 20140627_085432

A few weeks ago I facilitated a team offsite for a client I’m working with on an engagement project. The location was this really cool art studio in a trendy part of town. As I pulled into the lot, I quickly noticed that the owners must value “green.” There were some vegetated swales and designated parking spots for fuel efficient and “HOV” vehicle parking.  I was instantly lured in and appreciated the respect shown toward the business’ environmental impact…before even stepping foot in the door.

I wasn’t sure what HOV stood for, so it was the first question I asked the young man working in the reception area. His response – “I really don’t know. People ask me that all the time.”

Brand disconnect.

Hmmm….I thought. Was this all for show? Was it the trendy thing to do? Are they just trying to keep up with competition?

About a week later I did some research on their website. It ends up it’s a LEED Silver Certified green building. The rooftop has a solar panel system, and their property features a monarch butterfly conservation waystation, a bioswale rain garden, and a garden of native plants and prairie grasses. Being married to an environmental scientist and having worked in an environmental industry, I know that this level of commitment to green takes an investment, not to mention motivation and passion.

So this was clearly an internal brand alignment issue, which resulted in my brand experience being compromised. I cared enough to do further research on my own, but I’m part of probably 1% who would. Most customers would have stopped with thinking, “This place is just trying to be trendy but has no idea what being green even means” and potentially take their business elsewhere due to a feeling of fakeness during their experience.

Even if it was a false perception of the brand due to this one comment made by the receptionist, we all know very well that perception is reality.

Two important takeaways from this story:

  1. Your employees ARE your brand.
  2. Your employees can make or break your customers’ brand experience.

How many employees are aligned with their organization’s brand?

When asked how much they agree with the following statement, “I know what my company stands for and what makes our brand(s) different from our competitors,” 2012 research conducted by Gallup found that only:

  • 60% of executives strongly agreed
  • 46% of managers strongly agreed
  • 37% of all other employees strongly agreed

Maybe even more concerning is that 9% of other employees (non-executive, non-manager) strongly disagreed that they understand their company’s brand promise and brand differentiation.

Why is this more concerning? Because it’s typically your frontline that has the most touchpoints with your customers. It’s the receptionist greeting customers as they walk in, the customer service rep answering your customers’ calls, the entry-level sales associate running a Lunch & Learn webinar about your products and services.

What can I do to align my employees with my brand?

1. Answer: What is it?

First thing first – develop a brand strategy if you haven’t already. Be intentional about what you want your brand to feel like, look like, be differentiated by, etc. Include the following in your brand strategy:

  • Brand platform/positioning
  • Brand personality
  • Brand naming and architecture
  • Brand experience
  • Brand imagery
  • Brand alignment plan (!!!)

2. Embed it consistently into your internal communications.

Plot out your internal channels, create messaging around the brand, and insert it frequently and indefinitely into every employee touchpoint.

3. Reward and recognize brand-aligned behaviors.

Create recognition schemes that positively promote brand-boosting behavior.  This could range anywhere from public “shout outs” to performance-driven compensation plans. Are your employees living your brand? Reward them for it!

4. Onboard every single new employee around the brand.

Even seasonals and temps if they are going to be interacting with your customers. It is highly likely that the young man at the art studio who didn’t know what HOV stood for was a summer temp. Have employees “drink the Kool-Aid” from Day 1 by not focusing solely on policies, forms, and medical benefits, but also on your brand promise. Have them “feel” it first-hand through experiential learning embedded into your onobaridng program.

5. Regularly solicit input from employees about the brand.

Where are they feeling a disconnect? What aspects of it do they feel the closest connections to and why? What are their clients saying? Make it an ongoing discussion, and address needs and/or make changes as warranted.

Oh, and just in case this has been eating at you since you started reading – HOV stands for High Occupancy Vehicle. 🙂

Goodbye Old Friend – It’s Been Real

It’s hard to say goodbye. Period. It’s not easy to let go of something in which you are emotionally bound.

DSC_0001Take these Asics for example. They got me through my first half-marathon. They were with me every Sunday for those long runs – just me, my shoes, and the pavement in the early morning fog.  Hours upon hours and miles upon miles, we pushed through the summer heat in preparation for our fall race. When we crossed the finish line together, we shared a moment of accomplishment and gratitude.

That was in 2011, but yet I still hang on to them. Even take them out for a run on occasion. I know I shouldn’t. There’s no tread left. I could easily get injured running in them. They can’t support my body anymore and have far surpassed the 300-400 mile lifespan they were engineered to sustain.   

But I still can’t bring myself to throw them away – to bring a necessary ending to our relationship.

One of the speakers at this year’s Leadercast event was Dr. Henry Cloud (@DrHenryCloud), who is a leadership and organizational coach and consultant, and is the author of more than 20 books, including “Boundaries for Leaders” and“Necessary Endings”.

Cloud argues that,

The tomorrow that you desire and envision may never come to pass if you do not end some things you are doing today.

Hands are cut bush clippers

Dr. Cloud equated the process of bringing about “necessary endings” to that of pruning a shrub. It’s the best buds that need the resources of the vine. These resources will be scarce if they are being spent on sick or plateaued branches.

Now think about this from an organizational leadership perspective. Are you properly resourcing that which brings the most life to your company? Have you had the courage to prune products, strategies, processes, and even people to ensure optimal health and vitality – or do you have some clipping to do?

Just like my running shoes are no longer doing me any good and are actually now posing a threat, there may be aspects of your business that are doing the same, but you are too emotionally connected to let go.

  • Maybe it’s a product line that was the brain child of yours and your original business partner. It was once relevant to your market, but you know deep down that it’s not anymore. Clip.
  • Or maybe it’s that bright new star you handpicked and mentored. She is making the big deals but is not emulating the behaviors and values of the organization. The coaching isn’t working. She is damaging the team’s culture and levels of engagement. Clip.
  • It could be a vendor relationship you’ve had for years. You’ve always done business with them. You’ve shared many holes on the golf course and have even vacationed with each other’s families. However, your business needs have changed. They are unable to meet them. Clip.

It’s not easy to bring about these necessary endings, especially when it involves people. We get attached. But as a leader, you owe it to your entire team to facilitate the best long-term growth and health of the organization. No one said that being a leader would be easy.

Dr. Henry Cloud suggests a process to pruning. Give some thought to the following three questions:

1.  What is good but not great?

The true life of a company sometimes rests within only about 20% of its activities. It could all very well be profitable, but not great – not the best. Clip the good so that you can better resource the great.

2.  What is dead and taking up space?

This is a bit easier to identify. You will often know right off the top of your head what these activities or resources are but are just avoiding the inevitable. Stop ignoring it and take action.

3.  What is sick and won’t get well?

Someone’s or something’s season may be up. What may have once been your most flourishing asset is now a recurring expense. No matter how many more resources you pour into it, its growth is permanently stunted.

So pull out the sheers and start clipping…and watch your business thrive.

Check out more from the Leadercast series on Core Chat: